A little warning to the readers on this week’s post: this is a discussion on the subgenre of “twincest”. Some individuals might find the topic objectionable; it is not subject matter for those under 18. Please note that this is a post about it in philosophical terms and while there is mention of the novel Gemini by Chris Owen this is not a book review.
I have read a wide variety of romances and subgenres, so there is very little that I will not read because of content. But some topics like cheating, BDSM, and polyamory are subjects that readers find offensive or disturbing. I was in the mood for some poly romance recently and the book Gemini was at the top of the list on Goodreads. I had been avoiding it despite the 3.70 average rating because the idea of incest just makes me go, “icky!” With the concept that I could not judge without reading the content, I took the plunge.
What makes ménage with brothers “ok”?
I have read ménage books before with twins, although the sexual feelings were just between the female/males (male/female/male), none between the brothers. It was always very plainly stated that there was no “twincest or incest” with the siblings. Some authors in these sub-genera would be Maya Banks’ Colters’ Legacy series and Sophie Oak’s Nights in Bliss series. In these novels, the siblings don’t really touch and there are no romantic feelings between the brothers. In Banks’ series she has said that she wants the focus of the stories to be on the female.
I can’t help but think it allows their books to be more mainstream and sellable than if the males involved were sexually involved. Of course, some people might find both topics objectionable, so preferences very. While I hold nothing against that type of ménages, I tend to think that it would be seem unrealistic that the men would not touch each other while the three have sex. With physical intimacies come emotional ones and how can feelings not develop? The taboo then becomes when these menages have siblings and we move from simply polyamory to incest.
Twins, Basil, Twins!
You see it in movies all the time, the male character talks about the time he had sex with twins. Take a look at the movie Austin Powers and the famous line, “Twins, Basil, Twins!” But we really do not stop to consider if the twins were sexually active with each other, we just laugh at the funny line with Mike Myers. So what makes the concept of twincest in books seem more disturbing?
The idea of a social taboo is that it goes against norms. A quick definition is this: “A social or religious custom prohibiting or forbidding discussion of a particular practice or forbidding association with a particular person, place, or thing.” [New Oxford American Dictionary]
Some key examples of a taboo are incest or cannibalism; in many cultures these are topics that most cringe, certainly not exactly “romantic” topics. From a social evolution perspective, these actions are considered bad because of the survivability of the group. Eating your neighbor would reduce your gene pool options and reduces the strength of your faction’s survivability. For incest, again if those brothers and sisters produce an offspring, the results would not benefit the DNA. Add to this that religions like Christianity considers these taboos wrong increase gravitas to the “wrongness” of the topics.
But society aside, what psychological harm could incest cause? I am not a psychologist, nor is this a forum for a discussion of the consequences of incest, yet there seems to be unavoidable pain and damage that would follow. It is not just that the twins might meet for the first time as adults, but that they were children and possibly sexually active. With gay twins we do not have to worry about any two-headed babies being born, but it still falls under the “abby-normal” category in relationships.
Other questions such as what other potential mental disorders or a condition of the twins this is manifested? What was the home-life like? Was there abuse from any other family members and their only support was their twin? What type of narcissistic personality would have you attracted to someone who looks just like themselves?
Is it Too Dark?
We can see that the basic topic of twincest is not a light-hearted one and it possibly breaks state and federal laws depending on how it is handled. So as we read these romances, we balance that “taboo” feeling with concern and interest of the plot and characters. As I read Gemini, I kept thinking that Paul should have been encouraged to go into some sort of therapy. Clearly he had other issues than just being sexually attracted to his brother. In fact, it was almost like the author tossed BDSM into the pot just because it was another taboo type theme and “damaged” people often find relief there.
In Gemini, many of these psychological concerns were excluded. There was no sexual abuse; the contact between the brothers did not happen until after they were adults. The author hints that Paul had some emotional issues when their parents died, but we never get any development. Paul took comfort in Jamie and one thing led to another. So, the answer, at least from this author is that the twins make it work, and having a third balances them out, certainly it gives them a cover for “normal” life.
Am I asking for too much in a “twincest” novel?
In Gemini, what disappointed me was the lack of follow-up with the psychological issues. There was an opportunity for some compelling character development, but Owen went for a light fun version. There are 182 pages of descriptive sex scenes with little actual plot or character development. Toward the end, I just skimmed to get to the end.
So, is there any value in twincest erotica? If you are interested in tons of kinky sex with little plot, then Gemini is for you. I can’t say that I enjoyed this book; I was too uncomfortable with the topic but like a car accident, I could not put it down. So for me, the rating would be a 2 star, but for others looking for an erotic taboo story, they might give it a 5 star. Here is a list on Goodreads of the most rated twincests by the readers.
Yet, after all of this discussion on what the book should have been, I think perhaps I asked too much for the sub-genre. When we read a romance book (erotica or not) we look for a happy ending with some sort of conflict either internal or external. I understand if the book was “realistic” we might have had a darker novel with a chance of a non-HEA ending. Perhaps it is the answer on why Owen did not go in that direction. But I cannot wonder if it was a missed opportunity for the plot and character development. I might try to find another novel out there to see if it can be done, but I fear this sub-genera is solely about the taboo, not the characters.